Physiotherapy Treatment For Elbow Bursitis (Olecranon Bursitis)

Managing Elbow Bursitis through Physiotherapy: A Comprehensive Guide




Elbow bursitis, also known as olecranon bursitis, is a painful condition that can affect individuals from all walks of life, including athletes and office workers. This article explores the causes, symptoms, risk factors, and effective physiotherapy treatments for elbow bursitis.


Understanding Elbow Bursitis:


Elbow bursitis originates from inflammation, irritation, or damage to the olecranon bursa—a small sac filled with fluid that reduces friction between skin, muscles, tendons, and bone. Situated between the olecranon (the bony point of the elbow) and the skin above it, this sac facilitates smooth movement of the elbow.


Common Causes of Elbow Bursitis:


1. Repetitive Pressure: Activities involving leaning on hard surfaces or sports that require throwing, hitting, and pushing with extended elbows can lead to repetitive pressure on the bursa.

2. Trauma: Direct impact or falls onto the elbow can damage the bursa, causing bleeding inside the sac and subsequent swelling.

3. Autoimmune Conditions: Certain autoimmune conditions can contribute to the development of elbow bursitis.


Recognizing Symptoms and Risks:


Symptoms of elbow bursitis include pain and swelling at the back of the elbow, making it uncomfortable to rest the elbow on surfaces. Over time, lumps may form beneath the skin, indicating persistent inflammation. Infection can also occur, causing additional swelling, pain, warmth, fever, and even abscess formation.

Several risk factors increase susceptibility to elbow bursitis:


1. Insufficient Recovery: Failing to recover properly after a previous elbow injury can increase the risk.

2. Stiff Joints: Poor joint mobility, especially in the elbow, can predispose individuals to bursitis.

3. Musculoskeletal Imbalances: Muscle imbalances and inadequate warm-up routines contribute to the likelihood of developing bursitis.

4. Muscle Tightness and Weakness: Tight triceps muscles and overall muscle weakness can be risk factors.

5. Poor Exercise Recovery: Inadequate recovery after exercise or activity can exacerbate the condition.

6. Inappropriate Training or Conditioning: Overtraining or inadequate conditioning can increase the risk of bursitis.


Effective Physiotherapy Treatment:


Physiotherapy plays a crucial role in managing elbow bursitis. Treatment involves:


1. Education: Understanding the condition and its triggers is the foundation of effective treatment.

2. Soft Tissue Manipulation: Skilled hands-on techniques help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.

3. Joint Mobilization: Controlled joint movements improve elbow mobility and function.

4. Dry Needling: Intramuscular stimulation can relieve muscle tension and pain.

5. Compression and Ice/Heat Therapy: These modalities assist in reducing swelling and pain.

6. Stretching: Specific stretches enhance flexibility and promote healing.

7. Activity Modification: Guidance on modifying activities to prevent further irritation is essential.

8. Gradual Return to Activity: A structured plan for reintroducing activities aids in recovery.

9. Progressive Exercises: Strengthening exercises, posture correction, and scapula stability exercises are essential components.


When Physiotherapy Requires Further Action:


In some cases, patients may not respond adequately to physiotherapy alone. Further steps may include:


1. Imaging: X-rays, ultrasound, MRI, or CT scans can provide a clearer picture of the condition.

2. Medical Interventions: Corticosteroid injections or pharmaceutical treatments may be recommended.

3. Bursa Draining: In cases of excessive fluid accumulation, draining may be necessary.

4. Surgical Excision: Rare and recurring cases may require surgical removal of the bursa.




Elbow bursitis can significantly affect daily life, but with proper treatment, its impact can be mitigated. Physiotherapy stands as a cornerstone in managing this condition, offering tailored approaches that encompass education, hands-on techniques, exercises, and activity modification. If you suspect you have elbow bursitis or are experiencing recurrent symptoms, seeking guidance from a skilled physiotherapist is the best course of action. Their expertise can provide personalized solutions for your unique needs, ultimately aiding in your journey towards recovery and improved quality of life.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

Q1: What is elbow bursitis, and what are its common symptoms?

A1: Elbow bursitis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the bursa sac located near the elbow joint. Common symptoms include swelling, pain, tenderness, and limited range of motion in the affected elbow. Sometimes, the bursa may become infected, leading to more severe symptoms.

Q2: What causes elbow bursitis?

A2: Elbow bursitis can result from various causes, including repetitive movements, pressure on the elbow (as in leaning on hard surfaces), trauma, or infection. In some cases, it may be associated with underlying medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout.

Q3: How is elbow bursitis diagnosed?

A3: Diagnosis of elbow bursitis typically involves a physical examination, medical history review, and sometimes imaging tests like X-rays or ultrasound to rule out other potential causes. If there is a concern about infection, a sample of the bursa fluid may be analyzed.

Q4: Can physiotherapy effectively treat elbow bursitis?

A4: Yes, physiotherapy can be an effective treatment for elbow bursitis. Physiotherapists use techniques to reduce pain, inflammation, and swelling in the affected area. They also provide exercises to improve range of motion and strengthen the muscles around the elbow joint, which can help prevent future flare-ups.

Q5: How long does it take to recover from elbow bursitis with physiotherapy?

A5: The duration of recovery from elbow bursitis with physiotherapy can vary depending on the severity of the condition and how well a patient responds to treatment. In many cases, patients can experience relief within a few weeks to a few months. The key to a successful recovery is consistency with physiotherapy exercises and following the physiotherapist's guidance. Your healthcare provider will provide a personalized treatment plan and timeline based on your specific condition.

Book an appointment with one of our experienced physiotherapists today for a comprehensive assessment and customised treatment plan.

Contact: +92 324 7596076

Send Your Message